With all the focus this week firmly on the Masters Tournament, the Madeira Islands Open BPI-Portugal at Porto Santo Golfe will present the perfect opportunity for glory for a player away from the Augusta spotlight.
Richie Ramsay, at 29th, is the highest-ranked player in The Race to Dubai, and the Scot will be looking for his second victory of the season following last December’s triumph in the South African Open Championship.
For Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey, who won the Estoril Open de Portugal last year, the Madeira Islands Open BPI-Portugal is an opportunity for a ‘Portuguese double’ as well as the perfect chance to move up from his current position of 100th in The Race to Dubai.
“This year the aim is to be more consistent and it’s going well so far,” said Hoey. “I haven’t had any really high finishes but I was tied 32nd at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy, and I made the cut in all the South African events which was very encouraging.”
José-Filipe Lima, a European Tour champion six years ago, is the main home hope, but a number of other Portuguese players will attempt to follow in his footsteps to prove their credentials in a European Tour event, knowing that the champion earns a one-year exemption and therefore a guaranteed place on the top tier until the end of the 2011 season.
Sam Hutsby has been fancied to win a European Tour title in his rookie season this year, and the Qualifying School graduate is in fine form following his tied 12th place finish at the Open de Andalucia de Golf last week.
The 21 year old had a share of the lead at the halfway point in Malaga but ultimately had to give way to the winner Louis Oosthuizen – who finally made his European Tour breakthrough – Søren Kjeldsen and Francesco Molinari, all of whom will be at the Masters this week.
In addition, a host of Challenge Tour players and those from last year’s Qualifying School – Final Stage – particularly those who did not earn one of the 30 European Tour cards available – will be desperate to prove they have what it takes to succeed on The European Tour.
The Madeira Islands Open BPI-Portugal has been part of The European Tour International Schedule since 1993, and was staged at Santo da Serra on the main island of Madeira every year until 2009, when it moved to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo.